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Hertfordshire accused of holding staff to ransom over sick pay

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Unison members have voted to accept reduced sick pay and allowances after Hertfordshire CC “held a gun” to their heads.

Members of Unison voted overwhelmingly in favour of accepting the new contracts following bitter negotiations between managers and union representatives.

More than three-quarters of the votes cast, 82.5%, opted to accept the terms and conditions changes which the council predicts will reduce workforce costs by 3.8% - around £6.8m.

The union has refused to release the turnout figure.

A Unison spokeswoman said: “The employers have had a gun to the branch’s head by saying that if you don’t accept it we will impose it and walk away from the National Joint Council (NJC). So the members have voted for it.”

The branch had initially refused to discuss changes to sick pay, which are normally negotiated nationally, but returned to the negotiating table after the council said it would consult staff individually instead of collectively.

The council declined to comment on the claims that it had forced the branch to accept the terms and reissued an earlier statement from its chief executive.

Caroline Tapster said: “Discussions with Unison have been complex and I’m pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement in principle. Our intention throughout has been to make any changes through negotiation with unions, so this latest development is a really positive step.”

Unison was able to secure some concessions during the second round of talks, including limiting unpaid sick leave to two days rather than the three days originally proposed by the council.

Branch secretary Keith Price described it at the time as “the best the branch officers can achieve through negotiations with the employer”.

Unison continued to oppose locally negotiated changes to nationally set terms and conditions, such as sick pay, contained in parts two and three of the ‘Green Book’ of terms and conditions. “The ballot result is by no means a signal that we are going to change our position,” said Unison’s spokeswoman.

Elsewhere, unions representing Lincolnshire CC staff launched strike ballots last week over cuts to jobs and services. The results will be announced later this month.

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